Thin Ice: Unlocking the Secrets of Climate in the World’s Highest Mountains

Mark Bowen. <i>Henry Holt. $30.</i>


Thin Ice should correct the notion that climatologists are just number-crunching geeks. Mark Bowen finds that the field’s cutting edge isn’t in the lab, but on the dangerously exposed faces of the world’s highest mountains, where scientists defy boredom and death to document global warming.

Thin Ice focuses on the exploits of Lonnie Thompson, the relentless visionary behind the high-altitude climatology movement, one of the most promising areas of global warming research. For 30 years, he’s led expeditions to “every blank on the map he could find,” from the Andes to Kilimanjaro, to drill for ice cores, frozen time capsules that lock in air, dust, and pollution of climates past, and offer solid (literally) evidence of human impacts on the environment. Thompson has now spent more time in the “death zone” above 20,000 feet than almost anyone alive. Even his chief rival admits that Thompson’s insistence that the real climatological action is atop glaciers, not at the poles, has earned him a place “in the ranks of our great explorers.”

Bowen tells Krakaueresque tales of Thompson’s trials (avalanches, altitude sickness, torrential storms turning solar panels into kites, valuable samples plummeting down vertical faces), alternating with a meticulous, if sometimes labored, history of the science. Thin Ice is an occasionally hair-raising picture of an overlooked and surprisingly risky quest that will appeal to science buffs and armchair adventurers alike.

$500,000 MATCHING GIFT

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.